Preparing for and Responding to Disasters

November 2, 2003 Governor Schwarzenegger established the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Fire Commission. In April 2004, the Commission issued 48 recommendations for improving emergency preparedness to prevent and respond to California wildfires. Governor Schwarzenegger then established the Blue Ribbon Task Force—which included representatives from county, city, and state responders, OES state fire chiefs, and labor unions—to ensure these recommendations are implemented. California has made significant progress in meeting these; more than 160 engines have been purchased to refurbish and augment the state’s firefighting capa-

November 2004 Governor Schwarzenegger began the Golden Guardian Statewide Exercise Series to prepare federal, state, and local governments, first responders, and communities to respond to a catastrophic disaster. California’s Golden Guardian has become the largest statewide exercise program of its kind in the country.

October 22, 2007 Governor Schwarzenegger led the state through the largest evacuation in history during the 2007 fires in Southern California, employing local, state, and federal resources, and taking other actions, including making 1,500 California National Guard available to support firefighting efforts.

December 28, 2007 Governor Schwarzenegger made $2 million from California’s share of 2007 Federal Homeland Security grant funds available to counties without telephone emergency notification systems to purchase and install them. These systems, which are similar to the “reverse 9-1-1” system used in San Diego during the 2007 firestorms, are helping local officials implement a statewide alert and warning initiative and also improve local emergency response capabilities.

May 9, 2008 The Governor issued Executive Order S-03-08 to prepare the state early for fire season. The order directed the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) to immediately mobilize critical firefighting resources and personnel to save lives and homes statewide.

May 14, 2008 The Governor proposed the Emergency Response Initiative (ERI) to help California better prepare for, prevent, and respond to all emergencies and to provide first responders with new equipment and technology, thereby improving overall emergency preparedness and response and proactively helping to save lives and property. The ERI has yet to be adopted by the legislature.

September 27, 2008 As part of the Governor’s efforts to streamline the state’s emergency response capabilities, he signed AB 38, combining California’s Office of Emergency Services and Office of Homeland Security into a new cabinet-level California Emergency Management Agency (Cal EMA). AB 38 gave Cal EMA responsibility for overseeing and coordinating emergency preparedness, response, recovery, and homeland security activities in the state.

September 27, 2008 The Governor signed the following significant bills related to fire preparedness:

• AB 3075, which builds on California’s unique and nationally heralded mutual aid system, authorized the Office of Emergency Services (OES) to purchase and refurbish older fire engines and then resell them to other states and countries and to Indian tribes. 

• AB 2859 expanded CAL FIRE’s authority to thin green trees and other vegetation to promote healthy forests in areas with disease or insect infestations. It also facilitated and increased fuel treatment and clearance by exempting certain treatment activities from the requirement of a Timber Harvesting Plan.

• SB 1595, which amended the defensible space requirements that separate structures from surrounding vegetation and other potential wildfire fuels, recast these requirements in terms of fuels management instead of vegetation management. This bill also required CAL FIRE to develop a guidance document on fuels management and added certain wind events to the fire modeling for CAL FIRE’s designation of very-high-fire-hazard severity zones that are deemed major causes of wildfire spread.

November 13, 2008 The Governor initiated and participated in the first “ShakeOut” earthquake-preparedness drill. As of 2010, 8 million Californians had taken part in the “ShakeOut,” which is the largest earthquake preparedness activity in the United States.

May 5, 2009 Governor Schwarzenegger issued Executive Order S-05-09 to mobilize CAL FIRE to secure and deploy additional resources and personnel to protect communities statewide from wildfires.

January 13, 2010 Immediately following a devastating earthquake in Haiti, Governor Schwarzenegger dispatched California’s specially trained Urban Search and Rescue Team, California Task Force 2, to aid the victims.

September 10, 2010 Governor Schwarzenegger, together with Lieutenant Governor Abel Maldonado, coordinated response to a PG&E pipeline explosion in San Bruno. The Governor directed PG&E to release information to the public about the location and condition of pipelines and made assistance available to those affected by the explosion and resulting fire.